The one thing you need to inspire your staff – A leaderboard

December 5, 2016 - 7 minutes read

The closest burger place to my work has great décor. With wooden tabletops that fit in well with the grasshopper-green walls, servers in yellow tees and red caps, and the potted herbs along the street-facing pane draw me in whenever I pass by.

But what really catches my attention as I walk in is the board on the wall. “Our best employees” it declares, in a lineup of wallet-sized photos, with a different face taking the honor of the top spot every so often. I try to identify with the face behind the counter as I queue up to get served by the best guy on the job. The assumption is that the top guy obviously serves the best burgers at the fastest rate even though they might all be assembled by a mechanical arm over a conveyor belt in the back. Maybe it’s just me, but the top staffer is also the most sprightly worker, so there’s always a warm smile to go with the order.
leaderboard

What does a leaderboard do?

That’s what a leaderboard does to me – singles out the leader from the rest. It probably works its magic on the employees as well, as they vie for the top position and all the glory it comes with.

However, it’s not always about glory with leaderboards. Political campaigns to non-profits use leaderboards among volunteers to engage them in party activities and make their efforts fun. The (sometimes) not-so-fun leaderboard to show performances at the end of every school year is part of the student experience. It falls under the fairly new concept of gamification (which is a fancy term for activities that involve game elements to motivate people towards their goals).

Where it all began…

Leaderboards were perhaps the first social features added in games in the ‘80s. Back then, they allowed players only three letters to mark their accomplishment on screen but it carried a distinction of its own. Coming back to see your initials on the top meant a lot to the record holder and revived the goal to beat the high score in the minds of everyone else. Space Invaders was the first game to introduce leaderboards and the feature was quickly caught on by other games.

space invaders high score

Where they led us…

Now, of course, there is no three character limit on the username and you could attach an avatar ( just like photos on a burger shop wall ) to online leaderboards. Some leaderboards add even more perks to compete for: like badges and ranks to teams (so winners could band together!)

Check out the leaderboard from volunteers phone banking for the Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. It is clear that the board is meant to promote competitiveness but through an enjoyable approach.

Leaderboards also come with a few bonus amenities for the business or campaign using it.

  • Converge

    It isn’t constructive to your cause promoting activities no one else is a part of. With a leaderboard, you invite them to take part in the group that supports it. A leaderboard serves to encourage people to join in; whether it is a fundraiser or a phone bank.

  • Inform

    With a leaderboard, it is much easier to access information for anyone who requires. In Space Invaders, it told you the score to beat and in a political phone bank, it will inform the participant of the minutes they have logged in or the number of calls they made. Those with a competitive spirit enjoy tracking their progress against the others.

  • Connect

    Not always are campaign volunteers or activists acquainted with one another or share much in common besides support for the same cause. A leaderboard helps them connect in a fun way through friendly competitive spirit while focusing their efforts toward a common goal.

  • Inspire

    Once in a while, people need a fresh spur of motivation to keep them going. This is truer when they are committed to the same venture for weeks or months. A leaderboard does this by showing their exact contribution to the overall effort. You could also filter the leaderboard by day, week or month and find how your enterprise has scaled over time (or has the effort slacked off?).


Of course, bringing a leaderboard into play has a few drawbacks too (as many in the gaming community would emphasize). The point of having a leaderboard is to encourage people. If it does the opposite, the leaderboard isn’t serving it’s intended purpose.

Do leaderboards work?

The intention is to acknowledge the ones who provide the highest commitment – whether it be time, effort or money.

And it’s been proven to work. Look at the leaderboard for the top donors towards Cards Against Humanity’s Black Friday hole (for the bewildered, yep, it’s a leaderboard for donations to literally dig a hole!) and it’s evident the quest for recognition drives us to a great extent.

Top donors
If only Santa kept a public leaderboard, we’d be inspired to be good. Until then we strive for the top spot on game scores, campaign logs, and burger store walls.

We have something fun with leaderboards within CallHub in the works. Stay in touch!

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